Moving Beyond a Strange Spectatorship

Stories of Nonhuman Road Trauma in Australia


  • Rachel Fetherston Deakin University



roadkill, nonhuman, ecocriticism, Australian literature, anthropocene noir


What can nonhuman road trauma, more commonly referred to as ‘roadkill’, teach us about ecological crises and human culpability? Incidents of nonhuman road trauma could be described as strange encounters, revealing the shared trauma of the nonhumans and humans involved while simultaneously highlighting the supposed inevitability of such events. I argue that the choice to check the rearview mirror – to exhibit attentiveness and care in self-reflection – is an act of radical correspondence with the more-than-human. Such correspondence functions as a kind of non-spoken letter to both nonhumans and other human drivers; a letter calling for acts of care and attentiveness that acknowledge the nonhuman experience, mourn losses, and possibly instigate radical change when it comes to how nonhuman road trauma is thought about now and hopefully avoided in future. In her work on the ‘Anthropocene noir’, Deborah Bird Rose speaks of ‘the Anthropocene parallel’ in which humans are spectators of the suffering of nonhumans, and also spectators of a suffering that is our own. Written as both an essay and a personal log of my own experiences with nonhuman road trauma, this work draws on Rose’s idea in an attempt to reconcile the concept of what I term a ‘strange spectatorship’, in which humans observe, are implicated in, and turn away from the phenomenon of nonhuman road trauma and what such trauma reveals about human-nonhuman relations, particularly for settler-colonial Australians. Reflecting on anecdotal experiences as well as the representation of roadkill in Australian literature, I explore the strangeness perceived in how settler-colonial Australians are both actors and spectators in nonhuman road trauma. I grapple with the idea of such trauma as a means of better understanding the settler-colonial impact on Australian natural environments, and the consequences for both humans and nonhumans if we do not better address the ethical and ecological consequences of our modern road infrastructure.

Author Biography

Rachel Fetherston, Deakin University

Rachel Fetherston is an early career researcher in literary studies and the environmental humanities whose work investigates the representation of the nonhuman in Australian ecofiction and the potential impact that such fiction has on the reader’s relationship with nature. Her research includes considerations of speculative and science fiction, crime fiction, multispecies studies, and the intersection of reader response and nature connection. She is currently teaching across literature and the environmental humanities at the University of Melbourne, Deakin University and La Trobe University and is an ECR Representative at ASLEC-ANZ.